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Backsliding is gradual. If we are to avoid it, we must be clear about how dangerous and evil it really is. Yet this is one of the hardest things for the backslider to see.

The Prodigal Son was not headed for ruin. Quite the opposite. He was, in his own mind, richer than he had ever been before.

Backsliders are full of stories about all the good that will come of their actions. It is part of God's plan, they say, to set them free, to lead them into a new spiritual dimension with no rules, no leaders, and no accountability. But the greatest tragedy is that, by the time the truly demonic nature of backsliding is undeniably obvious, the backslider has, like the end-of-the-line drug addict, lost all faith, and blames even that loss of faith on the ones who tried to save him from his folly in the first place.

Backsliders focus blame on the true Christians while defending other backsliders. It is another one of Satan's devices for guaranteeing that they will not see the error of their ways. The backslider will jump back and forth between a doctrine of universalism (i.e. "We're all part of the kingdom of heaven, so why should I need to work with you?") and one of exclusivism that specifically excludes the Christians.

When asked what we have done to make the backsliders hate us so much, the response will usually be that they don't hate us... until they can build up a good case in their own minds for damning us, and then they will spread it around as justification for their backsliding.

Most commonly, they will argue that they were not treated fairly. Those who cannot come up with a good case of injustices against themselves will often become champions for all the other backsliders out there in the world who have been hard-done-by. They will see some of the worst rebels as being poor misunderstood outcasts.

It is common for backsliders to play tricks with time, so that they interpret their rebellion as having been in response to the criticism they received for rebelling in the first place. People who stormed off, or who slinked away in the middle of the night will become convinced that they were driven out, or they will say that they left because they could not live their lives in fear of being kicked out of the very fellowship that they freely chose to leave! Those who remain will be landed with the blame even for what the backsliders did when they were in the group.

When backsliders see undeniable sin in one another, and when it is pointed out, they will feign total independence from those whom they have been defending. "I can't answer for them," they will say. "Sure, he has a problem, but it is up to you to love him, to help him out, to solve his problem for him;" or "That's a matter between her and God."

So, while true Christians can do no right in the eyes of the backslider, their fellow backsliders can do no wrong.

Even while they are denying that they have backslidden in the first place, they will reach out to embrace all other rebels against God. They will discover a deep sympathy for anti-Christian relatives, for self-righteous cult-busters, for the Herods and Pilates, for Judas, and finally for the devil himself. The cult-busting mentality justifies it all on the grounds of freeing the world from the horrible heresy of the true Christians.

Of course only the worst will finally drive nails into the hands of the true Christians (while accusing us of having a martyr complex, of course). The rest will stay lost in the anonymity of the crowd chanting, "Crucify them!" just loud enough that their voices will not be recognisable above the rest. And they will make certain that Satan stays quietly back in the shadows, so that they can convince themselves that they are doing God a service in their common hatred for his people... those despised true Christians.

(See also Reject Us, Reject God.)

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